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Is The Giver appropriate for a class of 10-year-olds?

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Initial post: Jan 17, 2009 9:57:12 AM PST
M. McNerney says:
I am a fifth grade teacher and am considering having all of my fifth graders read The Giver. Do you think this is appropriate?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2009 2:51:54 PM PST
Nirit says:
I have to say, as a 38.5 year old (with a 7 y child), that images from this book are still haunting me - suicide, killing a newborn, the intent to kill an infant, an adult deliberately, repeatedly, hurting a 3 year old, and the final struggle for survival that is left unresolved. I can't imagine many kids under the age of 15 being able to cope with the images and benefit from the social and personal messages of this book.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 6:09:37 AM PST
Booklover says:
I'm the author of the book---and based on what I've heard from hundreds of teachers over the years since The Giver's publication, it is most effectively used with kids 12-15 years old. With that age group it seems to provoke vigorous discussion, debate, and a good deal of thought about the issues raised in the book. 10-year-olds can certainly follow the plot, and read it for the "story" but they are for the most part too young to fully appreciate the underlying concepts. Some readers that young will read the book and love it; I know because I often hear from them! But as a class read, I think 10 is a little too young.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2009 11:15:04 AM PST
Gwen Jachim says:
Why not have them read Number the Stars instead? Also a powerful book with some social issues, I do believe these are issues that 10 year olds could begin to understand. The Giver deals with a perfect society and a young boy struggling as he begins to see cracks in it. To what level should society control our every move? Is euthanasia right? Infanticide? drug control of sexual desires? These are questions that are at the heart of The Giver and until young adults are ready to ponder these questions they will miss the soul of The Giver.

Posted on Feb 20, 2009 9:49:00 PM PST
Elise says:
I read the giver when i was in fifth grade. It has always remained one of my fondest reading experiences. Granted, as far as maturity and reading level went, i was quite a bit ahead of my peers, and we were unable to have any real discussion of the book and meaning of it in class, which i think was quite unfortunate.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2009 5:56:34 PM PST
S. Emmett says:
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Posted on Feb 28, 2009 12:04:52 AM PST
A 5th grader could read it; the "read" itself is not difficult, but the themes and concepts are very complex and sophisticated. I teach it to my 8th graders; I would recommend 8th or even 9th grade, though, I know many teachers teach it in 6th grade. Sure, you could gloss over some of it with a 5th grader (e.g., you don't HAVE to explain that stirrings are sexual urges), but my feeling is if you have to censor a book for the reader, then it may not be appropriate for the reader. This book is much more enjoyable when the reader can understand all of the concepts.

Posted on Feb 28, 2009 12:08:23 AM PST
S. Emmett, I'm just curious why you think the book is abysmal. Out of every piece of literature that I teach every year, this is the one that my students find most fascinating and captivating. In fact, just last week, I had students from 7 years ago (now in college) come to visit me, and the first thing they said was, "We still remember The was the best book we've ever read."

Posted on Mar 2, 2009 12:02:42 AM PST
When I was in 5th grade we read The Giver. It's the most memorable book I read as a child because of those powerful themes. Don't underestimate your students, with the right support for a few vocabulary words and older themes they'll love it. We also had already started our sex ed lessons so it was probably a bit easier for my teacher to explain since we had diagrams and already covered the main ideas of puberty. If the book is a bit strong for your students and they lack the maturity you might try The Moon Bridge by Marica Savin.

Posted on Mar 2, 2009 6:12:16 PM PST
J. Schiweck says:
I read the Giver summer going into 7th grade, and honestly I didn't really enjoy it at all. The whole book felt like a chore to read, and looking back I have thought about reading it again now that I am in high school but that experience with it just totally turned me off. I would have to say no, considering it deals with some disturbing themes, and I don't think a ten year old would be able to examine the idea of the utopia portrayed in the novel on a deep enough level to truly understand the story. Oh and by the way, I enjoyed Gathering Blue even less.

Posted on Mar 9, 2009 9:33:14 PM PDT
MistyBookRat says:
I think this is something you will ultimately have to decide for yourself based on your knowledge of your students' maturity levels, but I would like to share an incident from my schooling with you. When I was in second grade, my teacher read the book The Faithful Elephants, which is about the euthanization of the animals in a Japanese zoo during WWII. It is a very sad book, and many of us cried, but it brought us together for a moment and gave us a change to be compassionate and empathetic.
A few years ago I wrote to my teacher to ask her the name of the book, and told her how much it meant to me that she'd felt we could handle the subject matter and was willing to tackle it with us. She wrote back to inform me that my timing couldn't have been better: that very week she went to a board meeting where one of the topics of discussion was whether or not to allow her to continue teaching that book. She took my email to the meeting.
I am sure there are people who will read The Faithful Elephants (or The Giver, or To Kill a Mockingbird, or a whole host of other wonderful books) and say they are not appropriate, but if she had never read it to me, I may never have found it. I was always greatful to her for not underestimating us, and she is one of the reasons I myself am studying to be a teacher.
Good luck, whatever you decide.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2009 9:20:44 PM PDT
M. McNerney says:
Thank you for your response. I have decided not to use The Giver as a class read, but have recommended it to a few of my more mature students. I, personally, loved The Giver and the two sequels.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2009 9:22:15 PM PDT
M. McNerney says:
Thank you for your recommendation of The Moon Bridge. I just ordered it, and am looking forward to reading it.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 5:49:32 AM PDT
I would definitely not have a fifth grade class read it. Our son's friends read it this year as part of their 5th grade class. One of the boys is autistic. The question came up would they have killed him? And the obvious answer was yes. How would you deal with that. We also spoke to our son about how we are already trying to create this society through prenatal testing and the abortion of 80-90% of Downs babies (and many other babies with birth defects). He spoke up about this in class. I am so proud of him! Are you ready to have that discussion in class and give all sides the right to speak up? I definitley think 5th grade is way too young.

Posted on Apr 7, 2009 2:54:41 PM PDT
AK says:
My 5th grade teacher read this aloud to my class of both 4th and 5th graders (our advanced English overlapped for those grades to make a large enough class), but she discretely skipped the part about the "stirrings." But then again, this was also the year we had a mother daughter tea to talk about our bodies' changes, so apparently even within my school there were inconsistencies about what a 5th grader was mature enough to hear.

I remember finding the novel intriguing and,while dark, not disturbing or frightening, but as I mentioned, this was not the average level English class. Recommending it to the more mature students as you did was probably a smart move.

I must say though, I think many times when we worry what our children are being exposed to, it's because we're worried about the ability to handle a discussion of the subject matter -- not their ability, but ours. It's stressful when you're innocently approached with a question that has no easy answer, but that doesn't mean that discussing a complex matter will scar a young mind or make them grow up overnight. If you're ever faced with irate parents who take issue with subject matter, it's probably because it's tested them more than their child.

Hope the students you recommended it to enjoy it!

Posted on Apr 13, 2009 11:15:27 AM PDT
My 10 year old just read this and I read it after him since he enjoyed it and the theme interested me. I enjoyed it as well but I'm unsure my son understood all the points the book made. I definitely think he saw the ending differently then me. I need to ask him more about what he took away from the "stirrings" as I don't think he's had any.

Posted on Apr 14, 2009 6:29:04 AM PDT
Angela M says:
I read this book when I was 10, and I loved it! There's no reason that a 10 year old shouldn't read this. The Giver, Number the Stars, and Tangerine are all great books for that age level. It has been years since I even picked up any of those books and I still remember them vividly.

Posted on Apr 16, 2009 7:45:09 PM PDT
a teacher says:
I have taught 4th and 5th graders for many years. I agree that we do sometimes underestimate our students. When kids read, they can have powerful responses and deep insights. I have often been surprised and impressed by their perceptiveness.

In any class, you will find students who are more mature and students who are less mature. Some students read on the surface, just for the story; other students see into the depths.

As you see from the responses here, some people loved the book when they read it as youngsters and others disliked it. Same thing for the adults who read it. That's inherent in using whole-class books -- even if you are very, very careful to work toward the best possible understanding and the greatest possible engagement, you're going to find a range of responses.

I probably would not choose to use The Giver as a whole-class book in fifth grade. By the end of sixth grade, I might. The conversations would become richer as the kids brought additional life experience to the discussions.

The comment about the autistic boy reminds me of some amazing discussions that occurred in my fifth grade classroom when the kids were learning about Nazi Germany. (Nimber the Stars is a book that all fifth grade students in our district read.) Looking around at one another, and realizing how many of them would have been sent to concentration camps for one reason or another...

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 1, 2009 11:18:13 AM PDT
bishonmom says:
No, I think 5th grade is good time to instill good values and let them live in a happy world for a little while longer. They can still learn from a more mainstream book and save this one for 7th grade. It can be truly horrifying for the young at heart.

Posted on Jun 8, 2009 2:01:13 PM PDT
The Giver rocks and I read it when I was in 6th grade- I'm in 7th grade now and while I'm reading these comments that people have talked about I realized that I didn't notice any of thses issues as stated above this. When I was that age I just thought it as "the best book I ever read" just because of how it was written and how it captivated me. So it's best to talk about what the books really mean before and during reading it.

Posted on Jun 28, 2009 11:11:39 PM PDT
As a librarian, this is a discussion we frequently have about books in general. My view is this: a ten-year-old may be able to read it and may understand it; therefore, it is an appropriate book for that child. Unfortunately, too many young readers (and sometimes overly eager teachers) want to jump into books that they can't read and/or lack the experience to understand, so they will not enjoy or appreciate the book. As a teacher, I would not use The Giver in a class of ten-year-olds; however, I do occasionally recommend it to ten-year-old library patrons because I know their skills, interests and sometimes experiences. I hate to see children make the decision to dislike a book before they really are ready to enjoy it.

Posted on Sep 2, 2009 3:55:42 PM PDT
factfinder says:
Hello, I feel like saying I HATE The Giver, and I hope you don't use it for any of your students! I am one myself, and I think it very unappropriate!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2009 7:55:03 PM PDT
I am sure you have your reasons for hating the Giver"; however, I would disagree. I would have no problem using it with students in a class in grades 7/8 and up. I have had mature and thoughtful students reading it as young as fifth grade (I don't recommend this book to most students that young, because I'm not sure that they have had the experiences to understand or appreciate it). This book touches on a variety of issues relevant or of interest to adolescents and young adults, and provides opportunities an opportunity for critical thought and discussion.

Posted on Sep 13, 2009 5:34:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 13, 2009 4:33:07 PM PDT
Peggy Loflin says:
I enjoy the diverse insights here and I am thrilled Lois Lowry, the author, added to it! I have read this series, after we discovered Ms Lowry's lighter books about SAM !! She has so many wonderful, fun chapter books. The Giver series, however, I hid from my 9 yr old while I was reading them. I was floored to discover my child's teacher was reading them in class one year later. While I am not offended that my permission was not asked, I do not think it is an appropriate read for some 10 year olds, mine being one of them. IF a teacher wants to provide heavy, thought provoking lessons, there certainly are other ways. And if a teacher of elementary school students wants to explore this intensity of a read, perhaps an optional book club would be a possibility. While one child may be reached in a positive way, another child may be reached in an equally-or more severe negative way- from some of the darker images provoked by the book. Also, these days there is such a gap in ages because of some parents' holding their children back, we may be talking a 3 yr age span for one grade. Additionally, I am not sure maturity is the only issue here; with anxiety and depression in children on the rise, it benefits some children to find a little more joy and fun at school. BUT, I do love that LOIS LOWRY, as well as The Giver. Thanks for all the great reads!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2009 12:10:35 PM PDT
I'm a 21 year old college student, and I read this book with my fifth grade class. I would say that it is definitely appropriate for this age level. It continues to be one of my favorites, and I have reread a few times since. Obviously, the kids are not going to pick up on some of the concepts; however, they should be able to follow the plot and have great discussions about it. Perhaps you could even bring up some of the underlying concepts to them, which could lead to greater discussions.
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Participants:  55
Total posts:  74
Initial post:  Jan 17, 2009
Latest post:  Sep 16, 2014

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The Giver
The Giver by Lois Lowry (Paperback - January 24, 2006)
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